A health insurance company analyst pleaded guilty Thursday to kidnapping and sexually assaulting a 10-year-old girl after DNA evidence and new fingerprint technology helped solve the 1999 crime.
Timothy D. Nelson Jr., 50, entered the plea in the Johnstown, Pennsylvania, federal courthouse and agreed to a deal that will likely result in a 30-year sentence.
Nelson admitted he abducted the girl in Cairnbrook, Pennsylvania, took her to West Virginia and assaulted her before releasing her.
His lawyer, Lyle Dresbold, said Nelson feels remorse and plans to express that when he is sentenced in late August.
“He entered the guilty plea today, in part, to spare the victim and her family any further trauma,” Dresbold said after the plea hearing. “Mr. Nelson has taken responsibility for his actions and is taking this first step in showing contrition and the remorse that he has been feeling for a long time.”
FBI agent Robert Jones said at a news conference after the hearing that the child was able to help investigators recover a discarded paper bag and napkins that eventually linked Nelson to the crime.
Federal prosecutors told the judge that Nelson, of Cumberland, Maryland, drove past a group of three girls several times before he got out and asked them a question. When the 10-year-old victim responded, he grabbed her, put her in the car and drove away, keeping her on the floor of the passenger seat and pointing a handgun at her head.
When she screamed, Nelson struck her in an effort to silence her.
In West Virginia, he forced her to perform a sex act and gave her a napkin and a bag to clean herself. He also cleaned himself and then threw the bag from the window. Those items eventually helped solve the crime.
After driving her back into Pennsylvania, Nelson left the child on the roadside, told her to count to 100 and then call her mother from nearby. A passing motorist saw the girl in distress and stopped to help her, summoning police.
For years the DNA and fingerprints did not produce a suspect, but Jones said investigators ran the partial fingerprints through the FBI’s Next Generation Identification biometric database last fall, and they matched Nelson’s prints.
Jones said Nelson later confessed.
U.S. Attorney Scott Brady said that Nelson is likely to spend the rest of his life in federal prison.
“We brought Timothy Nelson Jr. to justice,” Brady said after the hearing. “And through that we were able to bring some measure of closure and finality — and yes, freedom — to this courageous young woman.”
By MARK SCOLFORO
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